September 28, 2015 By Franz-Stefan Gady – TheDiplomat
Afghanistan’s most decorated pilot is critical of U.S. efforts to help build the Afghan Air Force.
Afghanistan’s most decorated pilot, Colonel Qalandar Shah Qalandari, recently questioned the usefulness of a new fleet of American-made light attack helicopter gunships, according to an interview published in the New York Times.
Among other things, Colonel Qalandari said that the new helicopters cannot reach areas where Taliban insurgents are normally operating, since the helicopter cannot cross the mountain ranges that surround Kabul, and that the aircraft is also dangerous to operate.
“It’s unsafe to fly, the engine is too weak, the tail rotor is defective and it’s not armored. If we go down after the enemy we’re going to have enemy return fire, which we can’t survive. If we go up higher, we can’t visually target the enemy,” he noted. “Even the guns are no good.”
The helicopter gunship in question is the MD-530 F “Cayuse Warrior” light attack helicopters, some of which were recently involved in a combat mission south of Jalalabad. One pilot talking to the New York Times, however, noted that the helicopters lack gun sights for its two .50 caliber machine guns, making targeting very difficult.